Posted on 03/30/2021

What Are the Four Elements of Medical Malpractice?

What Are the Four Elements of Medical Malpractice?

When we are sick or ill, we turn to medical professionals. Thanks to their skill, understanding, and expertise, we can often return to our daily lives or successfully manage ongoing health conditions. We know we can reach out for help during even the worst health crisis. And the majority of the time, the doctors, nurses, health care technicians, and other medical professionals not only meet our expectations, but they also exceed them. But not always.  

Sadly, there are instances when the medical care we receive fails to meet the medical professional’s legally-imposed duty to provide appropriate treatment. Medical malpractice can occur if a medical professional makes a mistake in the diagnosis, management, or treatment of a patient. 

Common instances of medical malpractice can include the following:

  • Misdiagnosing your condition or diagnosing it longer than it would take other medical professionals to do
  • Failure to treat your medical condition or incorrectly treating it
  • Too little, or too much anesthesia, or other medication prescription or dosing errors
  • Surgical errors 
  • Injuries before, during, or shortly after the birth of a child

While each of these situations is unique, they all have the potential to result in unnecessary pain and suffering, delayed treatment, or being prescribed incorrect treatment.

But what exactly are the necessary medical malpractice elements to pursue a medical malpractice claim?

Four foundational legal concepts come together to constitute a medical malpractice claim. They are duty, breach, causation, and damage. We’ll look into each of them individually below. 


In a professional healthcare environment, a doctor has a legal duty to provide care for a patient. 

One of the medical malpractice elements you must be able to prove is that your doctor or other medical professional failed to provide the legally-obligated standard of care. They must offer care that a reasonably capable and careful medical professional, with a similar education, who lives in a similar geographic location, and is in good standing within related professional medical associations, would provide a patient under the same circumstances.

In other words, would a different medical professional in a comparable situation treat you the same way, with the same standard of care?

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This relates back to duty. If your medical care provider didn’t afford you an appropriate standard of care as outlined above, there was a breach. They breached their obligated duty when they failed to provide you with the standard of care you were entitled to receive.

To prove a medical care professional failed to meet their duty to the patient often requires expert testimony illustrating the expected standard of care in similar medical situations. A skilled medical malpractice team such as Grover Lewis Johnson may be able to help.


Causation is another medical malpractice element required to prove medical malpractice occurred. Causation requires you to prove that your medical provider’s breach of duty was the cause of injury or other harm.

The most straightforward manner of assessing causation is through something called the “but for” test. It helps with understanding whether a consequence would have occurred but for the medical professional’s negligent action.

For example, you could ask yourself the following question: But for my medical provider misdiagnosing my condition, would I be sick/suffering/injured right now?

If your answer is yes, you may benefit from speaking with a medical malpractice lawyer. You may have experienced medical malpractice elements worth exploring. 


The final medical malpractice element is damage. To meet this requirement, you need to show that the medical care provider’s action or inaction brought about real-world damage of a physical, psychological, financial, or other nature.

Sometimes, this is very straightforward, such as medical bills for care or treatment required due to the malpractice. But sometimes, it can be challenging to show how your life has incurred damage, especially in situations where it takes a considerable amount of time for the damage to manifest. Just because it can take longer, doesn’t make your medical malpractice claim any less valid. Other forms of damages can include lost wages, prescription medicine, diminished quality of life, or pain and suffering. 

Damage can also include delayed diagnosis scenarios such as failing to recognize the signs and symptoms within a reasonable amount of time for conditions such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, or an impending infection. 

When Should You Consider Medical Malpractice Legal Action

Medical care is never perfect, and even with the highest duty of care, you can still incur an injury. Sometimes, despite the most valiant efforts of all medical professionals, our loved ones die. But, if that injury or death was the result of reckless action, an intentional omission, or other negligent act or breach, you may be eligible to receive compensation for what you or your loved one has had to endure. 

Medical malpractice cases can be complicated and involve many moving pieces. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you review your situation and determine whether your case meets the four medical malpractice elements. We can also help you understand what to expect, walk you through the process, and ensure that you understand every stage of your case. 

If you or someone you love is struggling — financially, emotionally, or physically — and believes it is the result of medical malpractice, the medical malpractice experts at Grover Lewis Johnson can help. Everything we do is guided by more than 25 years of experience. And because we work on a contingency fee basis, you don’t have to pay anything unless we win your case. 

We can answer your questions, gather evidence, find necessary experts capable of providing expert testimony to support your claim, and more. We are ready to be your advocate and work with you toward the best possible outcome. 

The medical malpractice specialists at Grover Lewis Johnson are committed to open, honest communication and always being accessible to their clients. Call us to schedule a free consultation. We want to go over your case with you and provide you with the honest feedback you need to know if you have a case worth pursuing. We put our Michigan-based proven track record of successful trials to work for you. 

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash